Exploring the Connection Between Trauma Healing and Physical Health

[This blog was written for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and recently published on their website.]

Over 20,000 research studies have been done on the impact of stress on the human body According to medical experts, no one study definitively proves that unresolved stress and trauma can cause physical illness. However, my personal experience has led me to believe that it does.

I am not a medical professional, nor am I a therapist or nurse. What I am is a professional patient who has battled a lifetime of illnesses, from Type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure to Graves’ disease and stage IV colon cancer (twice).

I believe my complex medical history is connected to the sexual abuse I experienced in my childhood. Exploring this connection has been a key component of learning how to heal from trauma.

Facing the Impact of Childhood Trauma

Typically, one of the first lessons children learn is the importance of telling the truth. For children who have experienced physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological trauma, this lesson becomes confusing and stressful. Frequently threatened and told to lie, children like me are led further and further away from a core value: the authenticity to speak directly from the soul.

The result is often a spiritual loss so deep that recovery from stress and trauma can feel impossible.

Late one night, during a hospital stay for surgery to remove two feet of my colon, I knew I was dying. It was at that moment that I vowed, if I woke up the next morning, I would teach my body, mind, and spirit how to heal.

 

Accepting What Happened to Me Was Not My Fault
My journey to healing required an emotional reset. I had physically survived the trauma, but my emotional wounds remained. I was always sad, hurt, and angry because of the years of emotional issues and suffering I endured. I wanted a person to blame and hold responsible for my pain. I wanted the individuals responsible for the abuse to apologize, but I learned amends rarely happen.

The healing journey is also complicated by the constant reinforcement of victim-blaming attitudes (by peers, courts, and media) that validate what perpetrators have been saying all along – that the abuse was the victim’s fault. Part of my process involved learning and accepting that abuse is neither the victim’s fault nor their responsibility; the responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator.

For years after being abused as a child and sexually exploited by a therapist, I carried around the feeling that I was at fault for these traumatic events because I was not smart enough to know better. In a new therapy group, I was shocked to learn that none of these traumas were my responsibility.

Learning to Heal
Healing started the moment I took back the ability to speak directly from my soul. I also found many other ways to cope and heal:

  • Understanding and telling my story.
  • Finding the strength to withstand abuse myths and disbeliefs.
  • Creating a healthy support system.
  • Checking in with my medical and mental health professionals.
  • Strengthening my immune system.
  • Believing in an inner, astute truth: I am not to blame for the abuse I experienced.

I continued my healing by writing several books including Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, which won a 2018 Living Now Gold Book Award for books that change people’s lives. Additionally, I reported my abuse to the authorities as a way to take my power back.

The Mind-Body Connection
As I have written in my book, I have come to believe that when people think they are responsible for emotional trauma, this false belief disturbs the mind, body, and spirit — potentially weakening their immune system and leading to stress headaches and muscle tension, depression and fatigue.

Sometimes I worry that the self-blame and negative self-talk following my abuse was actually more harmful to me than the abuse itself. As I blamed myself and took responsibility for my abuse, I found myself in hospitals for illness after illness.

As I look back from an emotionally healed place, I have a message to share: It is our birthright to heal from the abuse we did not ask for or want, and to become the physically healthy person we always wanted to be.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and an abuse survivor. Now she shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. You can learn more about her work on this website.

 

 

 

 

How to Safely Move Out of an Abusive Home

GUEST BLOG by Nora Hood

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Nora Hood, a blog writer and today’s guest. Her blog below includes critical information on how to move out of an abusive relationship and home. 

 

(Image courtesy of Pexels)

Find more inspiring articles like this at The Never Give Up Institute’s Blog.

How to Safely Move Out of an Abusive Home

 If you are a victim of domestic abuse, escape might feel hopeless. It can be hard to leave, especially if you have developed a form of codependency with your abuser. No matter what fears you have, leaving an abusive home is the best choice. Once you leave, you will finally be able to start your journey towards being mentally healthy. In order to make it out safely and find a new home, you’ll need to make a good plan.

Be Prepared

Before you leave an abusive partner or family, you should have a plan. You probably won’t be able to take all of your belongings, but you should make a checklist of important things to pack. You will need identification information, personal documents, any money you’ve saved, keys, prescription medicines, etc. You’ll also want to take anything of personal value to you.

If you want to file for a permanent restraining order in the future, then you’ll likely need evidence of the abuse. This could also help you send your abuser to jail. According to WomensLaw.org, evidence could include anything from pictures of your wounds, a personal diary documenting the abuse, objects broken by the abuser, medical reports from the abuse, and testimony in court from you or other witnesses. Having evidence will help protect you in the long-run.

While you will eventually need to purchase a new home, your best option for getting away as soon as possible is by finding a temporary place to stay, whether that is at a friend’s or a family member’s place. You could also stay at a shelter while you’re getting things together.

 Make Your Escape

When you actually leave, you will need to move quickly so you don’t get injured. Don’t try to confront your abuser before you leave because this could make your situation worse. It’s tempting to stand up for yourself, but the safest option is to leave without saying anything. If your abuser has a regular routine, plan to leave when they are out of the house.

In the worst-case scenario, your abuser will catch you leaving and try to confront you. In this case, you should call 911. If you know that a confrontation is likely, you should consider calling 911 as a precaution. If you don’t feel comfortable asking for help from the police, you could also ask a friend to be there with you. Abusers are usually less likely to attack if there is a witness.

Find a New Home

It can be hard to get your life on track, but one of the best ways to get a fresh start is by putting down roots with your very own home. This will give you the sense of independence and control that you crave. As a domestic abuse survivor, your life was in someone else’s hands. Purchasing your own home is just another step of the healing process.

But buying a new home won’t be easy. You’ll need to have a regular source of income and good credit. If your abuser didn’t allow you to have a job, you’ll have to find one, which can be hard after experiencing the trauma of domestic abuse. Another important part of the home purchasing process is determining what you can afford. You’ll need to consider your annual income, the down payment, how much you spend each month, what kind of loan you’ll be taking out, and the location of the home.

Once you’re financially stable enough to buy your own home, take your time to decide which one is best for you. Make sure you do your research on the area and look for a neighborhood with low crime rates so that you can feel safe. After you’ve found the perfect home and moved in, you should make connections with your community. Niche recommends checking out the town calendar and joining local organizations.

Escaping from domestic abuse is hard. The relationship can become addictive, and it can feel like there is no way out. But you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life. Just make sure that you’re prepared to leave, so you don’t end up injured. If you want to learn more about surviving trauma and healing, The Never Give Up Institute offers a wide variety of information and healing tools that can help you start fresh.

Find more inspiring articles like this on The Never Give Up Institute’s website.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way numerous times. She survived and now shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her tools for healing trauma book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, click here. If you would like to read her 2020 published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between, click here.

Keep Speaking the Truth

Dear Wellness Seekers:

I received this picture and saying from a woman I greatly admire. In fact, this photo and saying are so touching that I wanted to share it with everyone I know. It has a very personal effect on me since some of my siblings have disowned me for speaking publicly about my childhood abuse. I am the only one in our family who admits that my father was the abuser, despite knowing some of my siblings were abused, too. (But that’s their story to tell. I can only write about my story.)

Telling the truth about an issue so despicable is never easy. After I survived Stage IV colon cancer, I finally learned that if I didn’t tell my personal story I was going to die. Sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. What I learned was I had stuffed all my life’s trauma into my body, mind, and spirit, and the trauma dove deep inside my muscles, cells, organs, and bones. I could never understand why I had so many health conditions, that is until I was diagnosed with cancer – 3 times. In my research to find how I could survive a 6 percent chance of survival, I began to research and pray to keep living. My book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, helped me realize that I had the power to heal myself. (You can view this book on this website.)

Many of my siblings refused to believe and were angry that telling my story was a healing journey. They, in fact, thought I was seeking attention. They knew I’d been abused, but felt the truth should be hidden. Hiding that truth made me deathly ill. I struggled with telling the truth until cancer became a wake-up call for me. Now I believe that the siblings who disowned me are not liars but are living a lie. I never thought they would act against me.

My world has not come to an end and many of my cancers have come and gone making me extremely grateful. That is why I chose to tell the truth.

You can, too!

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way numerous times. She survived and now shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her tools for healing trauma book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illness, click here. If you would like to read her 2020 published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.

A New Tool to Help You Heal From Abuse/Trauma

Dear Wellness Seekers:

I’d like to share with you a new tool I’ve created to help you understand and heal from abuse/trauma. All you have to do is click on this link and read the two charts Tools to Help You Heal.

The first chart reflects the negative effects that make you sick. Scroll down to the next chart to find the positive tools to help you heal.

You’ll be amazed to see how abuse/trauma can affect your mind, body, and spirit. Healing from abuse and trauma may seem daunting, but this chart can help you see the negative side of trauma and the positive side of healing.

Abuse and trauma can be healed and you can also begin healing by reading these charts and purchasing my T.R.U.T.H. workbook for just $25.00. (Special  50% discount.) You’ll  find new ways to heal.

T.R.U.T.H. Manual Now Available

T.R.U.T.H. Program — 2nd Edition

NOTE: Due to the coronavirus, T.R.U.T.H. Program groups will not be held until it is safe to gather. In the meantime, if you’d like to purchase this workbook, you can do so by contacting me at alexisackerhalbur@gmail.com. The cost of the manual and information packet is $25.00 plus shipping.

T.R.U.T.H. Program is an 8-week self-study and/or group program designed to help trauma survivors heal from past trauma, and to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit before illness takes hold. Through weeks of guided educational and informational techniques, you will learn how trauma has affected your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. T.R.U.T.H. Program is not therapy but a self-study opportunity to learn more about trauma and how you can resolve issues. T.R.U.T.H. Program is also not affiliated with any religion.

What does T.R.U.T.H. stand for?

The Road to Unresolved Trauma Healing. This program puts you at the center of truth.

What topics does T.R.U.T.H. cover?

Program Introduction
Why the Use of a Mandala
Week One:     Creating a Safe & Healing Environment
Week Two:     How Stress & Trauma Affect Your Health
Week Three:  Facing Our Fears
Week Four:    Healing the Mind
Week Five:     Healing the Body
Week Six:       Healing the Spirit
Week Seven:  Showing Self-Compassion
Week Eight:   Creating Your New Life Plan

What type of activities are included?

T.R.U.T.H. includes group discussions, writing exercises, guided imagery, meditations, questions and answers, trauma facts, pre- and post- self-assessments, and peer support.

Who facilitates T.R.U.T.H. Program

T.R.U.T.H. program is facilitated by Alexis Acker-Halbur and psychologist Johanna Lamm, PsyD.

Get you T.R.U.T.H. workbook today and never give up.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illnessclick here, or her newly published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.

 

 

2020

Dear Wellness Seekers:

I recently wrote this poem to try and find some answers to my anguish. This year has been a disaster and yet I keep plodding on. If you feel the same, I hope this poem helps you understand the stress we all are under. Stay safe and I wish you well.

2020

The winds howled in chaos,
and life as we knew it was gone.
From politics to pandemic,
our hearts rallied to stay strong.

We went through months of anguish,
with our democracy shattered.
We cried and prayed and pushed the alarm,
yet, nothing seemed to matter.

I looked for a sign of hope,
but change appeared to be lost.
My depression grew with flourish,
my beliefs and values tossed.

“Vote” they said would do me good,
so I signed and mailed my ballot.
It felt fierce to express my right,
and cleanse our land of maggots.

I’m tired of the lies and
the evil forced on us each day.
The world laughs at my country,
Should I leave or should I stay?

Autocrats will steal my soul,
and make me think like them.
They will never ever succeed,
we will fight them to the end.

So, rise up America,
we need to take our country back.
Healing from 2020 will take years,
start to believe in truthful facts.

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Alexis Acker-Halbur is an award-winning author and medical miracle. Child abuse made her seriously ill and put her in harm’s way many times. She survived and shares her experiences and tools with women and men who have been traumatized. To order her book, Never Give Up: Break the Connection Between Stress and Illnessclick here, or her newly published fictional novel, THE BEAR: In the Middle of Between click here.